Today in a sold out Kenan Stadium, with kick off at 12:30 p.m. EST, North Carolina (1-2) will host Conference USA’s East Carolina (2-1), in what some believe to be a rivalry game, some might believe (as I do) to be a must win for UNC Football, and others just see it as another home game in the 2013 season.
Maybe to describe this game best you would need to say… a squad coming to Chapel Hill to show that they belong playing with the ACC teams against an ACC squad that has its back against the wall with a below .500 record.
“Those schools have always looked down on ECU as the redheaded stepchild,” said Fisher, a former tight end for the Pirates “You always felt like you had something to prove in those games.”
Whatever you think this game might be or best describes it, one thing is for sure, the Heels need to find the explosiveness of last season’s offense, something that in the first three games has not been there, if they want to compete this campaign. And it is also Military Appreciation Day, as North Carolina honors the military in a variety of ways, including having the game ball brought on to the field by All Veterans Parachute team, as well as the helmet they will be used (pic on the left).
Carolina has the edge over this week opponent, which has its campus about 100 miles from Chapel Hill, with a 12-2-1 record as well as having a 13-2 record in the last two plus seasons in the friendly confine of Kenan Stadium. The Heels are 7 and 1 under head coach Larry Fedora at home.
At first thought this could be blamed on the fact that tail back Giovani Bernard took off for the greener pasture of the National Football League, along with a pair of excellent line men, making the ground game almost non existent for head coach Larry Fedora’s squad. The Pirates’ production isn’t much better, as they are averaging 63.3 yds per game.
But there is more than that, the attack is just not flowing. Senior quarterback Bryn Renner, who is 2 and 0 against ECU with six touchdowns and no picks, is not looking like the gun slinger that was taking the field in the latter part a season ago. This season the QB has 751 yds with 4 TDs and 2 INTs, a far cry from the last couple of games of 2012, when he had 620 yds and 8 TDs. If Carolina, who is a 12.5 points favorite, wants to win today against this in-state foe, they will need the senior to step up and make the plays when needed.
“I think there’s a lot of pieces we’re not getting in a flow,” Fedora said. “You’ve got to keep moving the chains to get into a flow offensively for everyone involved. From a penalty here to a missed block here to a missed read here, it’s always one guy. That’s the thing on offense: you’ve got to have all 11. All 11 have got to be doing it at the same time.”
Both the Heels and the Pirates have a high energy offense, which will put even more pressure on the defenses. UNC is averaging 263 yards through the air, while ECU is just a bit lower, putting up 258 yds per game. Meaning that if Carolina wants to win this game they need to get out ahead and keep on going on both side of the ball for the full sixty minutes.
Giving momentum back to the guest might be a mistake that Carolina might not be able to overcome against a high potent offense like ECU has. Basically what defensive coordinator Vic Koenning can not do is to have his players give up the big play, like they did against South Carolina in the season opener. From the sounds of it, it seems that the core of players he guides are improving…
“I was a lot more encouraged. And I told the players that I woke up a lot more encouraged than I’d been in a long time. Obviously I was disappointed in the score and the loss, but encouraged at the way they played,” Coach Koenning says.
It will be interesting to see how the squad reacts when they play against a team that goes just as fast as coach Fedora likes to.
In the end, I see this game as being one that ECU wants to win but UNC must win, and will do just that, by the final of 31 to 21, but not before the Heels fan base has to sit on the edge of their seats as the game is too close for comfort.